Family's tragedy moves attorney to tears
Posted June 1, 2009 11:25 a.m. EDT
Updated June 2, 2009 11:05 a.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — An emotional scene unfolded in Wake County Superior Court Monday when two families tied together by a fatal wreck made their pleas to Judge Ripley Rand.
Rand sentenced Christine Haithcock Meyers, 43, of 1149 Blackbeard Lane in Raleigh, to a minimum of 13 years in jail for the April 2008 collision that claimed the life of a father and son.
Meyers was traveling west on Buffaloe Road when she drifted across the center line, causing a head-on collision with a car driven by Ruben Dario Medina.
Medina, 34, and his 10-year-old son, Jefferson, were killed. Tiffany Medina, 4, and Alex Sanchez, a family friend, were injured.
Before Rand issued his sentence, Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cruden read a letter from Ludy Medina Fuentes, the wife and mother of the victims.
"We are constantly reminded of our loss. I lost a beautiful son and a great husband. The pain that I feel is unbearable," it read.
Cruden choked up and was unable to finish. Assistant District Attorney Melanie Shekita finished reading the letter as Ludy Fuentes sat crying in the courtroom.
Fuentes recalled how she found out about the wreck, then waited at the hospital only to get word that her husband and son had died.
"I felt like I was losing my mind from all of the pain," the letter read. "I could not believe what the drunk driver has taken from me."
Cruden asked the judge for the maximum possible sentence. "These aren't accidents,” he said. “These aren't mistakes."
"This family is torn apart."
Meyers also cried as she entered her plea and addressed the Medina family.
"I know the word sorry is a pretty small word right now,” she said.
“I am a mom myself and I cannot imagine what she's going through ... I want her to know that I am sorry and I will never do anything like this again."
Her defense attorney, Rusty Dement, presented letters of support from family and friends noting Meyers’ good work history as a surgical tech at Rex Hospital.
Meyers made "drastically bad decisions," Dement said.
"Good people make really bad, stupid decisions sometimes ... but they're still good people … She is saddened by what she has done."
Meyers chose to take a plea, her lawyer said, because she didn't want to put the Medina family through a trial. "She did not want to further their anguish," Dement said.
Meyers was also injured in the wreck. She was taken to WakeMed, where officers observed her red eyes and slurred speech. A test revealed she had a blood alcohol concentration of .15. In North Carolina, a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher is considered impaired.
Meyers told police she took a prescription sleep aid and drank three beers on the day of the wreck.
Cruden said police found empty pill bottles and an open beer in Meyers's GMC Envoy after the collision. Meyers suffered from depression and was recovering from surgery at the time, her lawyer said.
The judge sentenced Meyers to between 157 and 198 months in prison on two counts of second-degree murder. She will serve at least 12 more years, after Rand credited her for the 14 months she has served since her arrest.
Rand gave Meyers a suspended sentence on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and ordered her to 48 months of probation, 200 hours of community service and substance abuse counseling after her incarceration is complete.
Ludy Fuentes and her daughter are struggling to adjust to life without father and husband, Cruden said. They pass by the site of the wreck every day, Fuentes wrote, and Tiffany, now 5, says, "Goodbye Daddy and Jefferson, I love you very much.”
"I hope this proceeding will give you peace and will help you move forward,” Rand said. “I'm sorry you're here."
To the defendant, he said, “You now have the responsibility to go forward and to do something positive, do something to help people."
It was not Meyers’ first brush with the law. She had her license revoked in 2007 for a DWI charge in Johnston County. It had been reinstated by the time of the crash that killed the Medinas, a highway patrol spokesman said.